Bentley, recently hit by what chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark describes as 'a perfect storm' of loss-inducing business reverses, believes it's now on the road to recovery and can - Brexit allowing - score an all-time sales record next year.
Despite being hit by WLTP-related internal production delays that prevented expected launches of the new Continental GT in the US and China, which together account for just under 50 percent of Bentley’s business, the company still scored impressively high sales of 10,494 in 2018. It will start selling the GT in both countries by mid-year, and Hallmark says it could sell around 12,000 cars in 2020, with the recovery plan, which is backed by Volkswagen Group chiefs, already running ahead of forecasts.
Bentley faces five major challenges between now and 2025, Hallmark believes. The first, this year, is to complete its planned recovery. Next year’s is to “achieve the solid growth we’ve earned”. After that, it must diversify its range with a promised hybrid version of each model and a series of spin-offs similar to the recently announced Bentayga Speed.
By 2023, it must implement an efficient plan for meeting the fast-approaching Euro 7 regulations, aimed at further reducing real-world emissions of particulates and NOx from petrol engines. And by 2025, it must be looking to launch its first battery electric vehicle (BEV), a move made possible by then, Hallmark believes, by approaching Group decisions about future common body-chassis architecture and anticipated developments in battery efficiency to suit Bentley’s bigger, heavier applications.
For now, Bentley is undecided about whether its first BEV should be a new model (a more compact Bentayga-style model has been rumoured) or an adapted existing model. In the meantime, the company is working on a replacement for the Continental-based Flying Spur saloon for 2020-21 (which might get a new name) and developing a plan for its larger, flagship Mulsanne saloon.
One proposal for the latter, which sells a modest but profitable 450 units a year but seems unlikely to participate in the hybridisation programme, would be simply to redesign it and extend its life.
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